The Ultimate Guide To The Rowing Machine | Stephen Coleclough
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The Ultimate Guide To The Rowing Machine

The Ultimate Guide To The Rowing Machine

Nearly every gym has a rowing machine tucked away in the corner, often collecting dust.

Despite being one of the most under-used pieces of equipment in most gyms, it actually provides an incredible full body workout that will push you to your limits.

This guide will share a few reasons why you should jump onto the rowing machine more often and provides some useful tips for using a rowing machine safely.

The (many) benefits of using a rowing machine

Here are just a few of the benefits you can obtain by incorporating rowing into your workouts:

Rowing is a fantastic way to improve aerobic fitness

Maintaining a high level of aerobic fitness is important for people of all ages.

Aerobic exercises improve the health of your cardiovascular system, increase stamina levels, and boost the immune system.

An intense aerobic workout also makes you feel great as the brain releases feel good endorphins into your body.

Using a rowing machine allows you to get a fantastic aerobic workout in as little as 10 minutes.

Rowing will help you lose weight

Because rowing is a full body exercise, it uses many muscle groups and burns a lot of calories.

Using a rowing machine at moderate intensity will burn about 600 calories in an hour, which is better than many other forms of cardio.

It will help you burn off any excess body fat in a short amount of time.

A great way to work both your upper body and lower body

Rowing uses many different upper body muscles including the rhomboids (shoulders), trapezii (upper back), lats (lower back), biceps (arms), pectorals (chest), and abdominals.

It will also work the quadriceps, calves and gluteal muscles.

It is an easy way to work multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

Rowing is low impact

Rowing places much less stress on your joints compared to weight-bearing exercises like running, walking or hiking.

Once you have perfected your technique, you will find it easy to row for long periods.

Rowing will make you strong

When you row at a high intensity, it is surprisingly tough on your muscles.

If you row regularly, you will develop broad shoulders, strong legs, and a strong core.

It can really transform your body!

Precautions to take before using a rowing machine

While rowing machines can deliver an incredible workout, they must be used very carefully.

Failure to maintain correct form on a rowing machine can lead to injuries to the knees, lower back, and wrists.

If you are new to rowing, spend some time perfecting your form before performing long rowing workouts.

You should also ensure you are well and truly warmed up before using the machine.

If you feel any pain, take a break and always think about your posture when using a rowing machine.

It often helps to have a personal trainer watch you while using the machine to ensure your form is correct.

Using a rowing machine

Rowing seems like a straightforward form of exercise at first glance, but it does take some time to perfect your form.

A rowing stroke includes the following steps:

Step 1: The catch

Before you start, strap your feet into the rowing machine.

The straps should be tight enough to prevent your feet from lifting off the platforms.

Next, you will lift your knees up, bringing the seat forward so you can grab the handlebar.

This position is called The catch.

It is the first step of a rowing stroke.

Keep your arms straight and shoulder-width apart.

Hinge forward at the hips and keep your spine as straight as possible.

Your shins should be vertical to the floor when in the catch position.

Step 2: The drive

The drive is the part of the rowing stroke that produces power.

You will start by driving with your legs and pushing your body away from the front of the machine.

Once your hands are past your hips, start to tilt your hips back, moving your torso from the 11 o-clock position to the 1 o-clock position.

Finally, pull your arms towards your chest. Most of the power you generate during this stage should be from your legs.

Step 3: The finish

At this stage, your legs will be straight, your torso will be tilted at the hips and your hands will be on your chest.

If you are trying to perfect your rowing stroke, check the angles of your body at the finish.

If you still have good posture at this point, it is a sign that you are performing the drive well.

Step 4: The recovery

Finally, you will return to catch position.

To move forward, you will use the opposite sequence of the drive.

The drive is Legs > Hips > Hands, so the recovery is Hands > Hips > Legs.

Sample rowing machine workouts

Here are a few simple rowing machine workouts to help you get started.

One minute efforts

Spend some time warming up, either on the rowing machine or by stretching.

Start by rowing for one minute at a relaxed pace.

Then put in 1 minute of high intensity rowing.

Use as much power as you can sustain for the entire minute.

Alternate between the relaxed pace and a high intensity pace for 10 minutes.

Ideally, perform multiple sets of one minute efforts.

You can increase the intensity more by increasing the stroke rate with each high intensity effort.

1 kilometer rows

Row 1 kilometre efforts at a medium-high intensity.

Focus on your posture and form throughout the row.

Row for 5 kms in total, taking a 5 minute break between efforts.

Try to pace yourself throughout the effort, sustaining the same level of power.

20 minute rows

Being able to row for 20 minutes non-stop is one of the first major milestones you should aim for.

It is important to have your form perfected when you start doing longer rows, as you are more likely to injure yourself.

Remain at a sustainable pace and push yourself for the last minute.

Thanks for reading The Ultimate Guide To The Rowing Machine.

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Stephen Coleclough
Stephen Coleclough

Stephen Coleclough is a personal trainer and online fitness/nutrition coach from the UK. He loves heavy squats, smashing PRs and bacon sandwiches. You can follow him on Twitter at ColecloughPT.

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